Debuting at Monterey Car Week earlier this year, the Lotus Type 66 is an absolute stunner. In recent years, the automaker has planted a flag in electrified performance, so the appearance of an ultra-limited track toy boasting a 5.8-litre V8 was unexpected to say the least.
The Type 66’s unique provenance is another shock – while it may look like a retro reproduction in the vein of Aston Martin’s DB5 Continuation, it’s actually a modernised version of an unproduced Can-Am blueprint that would have competed in the 1970 season. With carbon fibre bodywork, a tweaked spaceframe structure, and modernised aerodynamics, the Type 66 has all the trappings of Lotus’ Evija hypercar, just wrapped up in some Quadrophenia style.
Gallery: Lotus Type 66 Revival
So when the automaker called me up to say there would be a Type 66 hanging out at Galpin Lotus in West Hills, California, I jumped at the opportunity to check it out up close and personal. Once I pulled up in my decidedly non-Lotus-like Lexus LX 450, I met with Simon Lane, director of Lotus Advanced Performance. Lane told me that the Type 66 was an exceedingly special project for the brand undertaken in collaboration with founder Colin Chapman’s son Clive. Clive unearthed a heretofore-forgotten set of blueprints for the car dating back to 1969, and Lane and his team began the process of making a 3D model of the racer.
Before long, Lotus had decided to put the Type 66 into limited production – just 10 units – but with some important tweaks. The front crash structure would have to be different, because original Can-Am racers treated the drivers’ feet like crumple zones. The fuel cell is now located next to the driver inside the main space frame, helping protect it from outside forces. And the pushrod engine sports forged aluminium internals, allowing it to develop 830 bhp and 550 pound-feet. The light, stiff carbon-fibre bodywork is another advancement that 1970 could only dream of.
“It’s about a second faster than a modern GT3 racer [around Laguna Seca],” Lane says. “So it’s definitely faster than a Group 7 Can-Am.”
Lane offered to start the thing up for me, and I timidly spoke through the lump in my throat.
“You probably have to do it, right? No one else is allowed to?”
He thought about it a moment, then shrugged out his reply: “No, I could probably talk you through it.” I was excited, though that joy quickly faded once he said no one outside of Lotus had started the Type 66 before. No pressure.
I removed my shoes to protect the one-of-one prototype’s glorious red, white, and gold bodywork, then climbed into the low, flat racing seat. Lane instructed me to thumb the power button on the right side of the wheel, then prime the dry-sump oil system by cranking the engine without activating the fuel pump. Once it was pre-lubricated, I switched on the fuel and pressed the start button. Within two or three revolutions, the 5.8-litre V8 fired up into a surprisingly serene rumble. Lane said the engine was incredibly loud, but at idle, it actually wasn’t as thunderous as I was expecting.
I think the disappointment on my face was obvious, because he told me to tap the accelerator a bit. Did he really want me to rev up this seven-figure racing car? I followed his instructions, and suddenly I got the 130 decibels he promised. Sucking down air through eight individual intake trumpets, the V8 sounds like Grand Prix and Days Of Thunder and American Graffiti all at once. Just brilliant.
Once the mill settled into its idle again, Lane instructed me to shut off the fuel pump and main power switch. My 15 seconds of Can-Am fame were over, leaving me with a big, cheek-aching smile that lasted for the rest of my short time with the Type 66. It’ll also likely be the last time I get this close to one – Lotus is only building 10, and each one has a price tag of £1.1 million. But while I only got to cosplay Steve McQueen for a few moments, they were some damn good moments.
The Lotus Type 66 is now on display in the lobby of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, and the first customer cars will be hitting collection halls and racetracks sometime next year. Lucky ducks.